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February 16, 2013

Cinequest 2009

canarycoverSitting in front of this stupid page for 30 minutes now trying to figure out what to write about Canary, but I know that’s what writer/director Alejandro Adams wants. There has been a lot of talk about this movie at Cinequest, and some badmouthing, 99% of which comes from Alejandro himself. Never in my life have I seen a filmmaker try so hard to get you to skip his film or prod you to write something bad. Possibly this is genius marketing – what better way to have people watch your film than with expectations at the bottom of the barrel?

Always ready to bite at any challenge, I was not going to be deterred. I did do something that many people did not – I read all the promotional materials. The Canary filmmakers made a great fold-up flier, like the kind you would see at a doctor’s office. It was an information brochure for Canary Industries. There is a lot of information in that brochure that would help a viewer before watching the movie. I also visited their website [now defunct] which also has this information. And with this information I watched the movie and was able to love it.

canaryI guess the main point that the viewer needs to know is that the Canary Industries deals in organs. Organ donations and organ retrievals. The film is set in the present, and if you listen carefully (or read the materials) you will find out that you can register your child (born or unborn) and of course yourself, so that you can receive an organ when necessary, donate one if necessary, and most importantly: take care of them. A good explanation of the company comes from their own words:

If any client is not in compliance with the Conscientious Usage contract, an Organ Redistribution Specialist may be authorized to remove the leased organ in order to preserve it for the future use of the community. The important thing to remember is that the organ gives life to many, not to one. Any individual who endangers an organ is willfully undermining the sustainability of the community.

“Indulging in sports, alcohol consumption, vigorous sexual intercourse, or other prohibited activities” will result in organ retrieval. This also means you must eat only approved foods and, no worries, Canary Industries has their own organic food line.

The movie itself has almost no plotline, no beginning, no end. The only real main character is “Canary Agent”, played by Carla Pauli. She speaks no words, just moves through Canary Industries (which is based in San Jose, of course) and the city without ever being noticed. She is not noticed by the chattering office workers at Canary, or by any citizens as she walks through town, or even when she stalks her organ prey in their own houses.

canarychildThe Q&A with Alejandro was interesting, in that he decided he would ask US the questions. First one? “What does the last scene mean?” Well, heck if I know. But I loved that he posed it to us, because to me it solidified the idea that this film IS an idea. It’s something to think about. I felt that the Canary Agent, silently both walking among us and ignored by us, really just showed how everyone turns a blind eye on things that happen in the world. We can get a job with an employer that does very bad things in the world, but we’re just employees, we’re not actually taking the organs. Bad things are happening all around us, right under our noses, but we walk on by because they aren’t happening to us. And worst of all, we are passively inviting bad things to happen to ourselves without speaking out or taking action. So don’t be surprised if you’re inanely chattering to your girlfriend about really stupid things on television and then wake up with all your organs gone. You should have paid more attention.

edited to add: After thinking more, I remember that the only person to ever notice Canary Agent is a very young child from the last scene that Alejandro asked about. I suppose now that that scene must have been something of an “Emperor has no clothes” meaning to it. The movie just gets more awesome the more you think about it.


Sadly not available in any way of which I am aware.

From → Reviews

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